Backfire decided to start their 2020 conquest with a belt drive release: the Backfire Zealot. I guess we all sense that belt-drive is coming back to fashion and now every major Chinese brand has a belt board, well every brand except Meepo, which I bet will soon join the movement too. By the way, I think Zealot is a pretty appropriate name for a belt board seeing those who like belts are often very fanatical about it. =P
The board is now pre-selling at $699 and is due to ship on 30th April 2020. Its official retail price will be $899 but seeing that competition is pretty tough in this product segment (Exway Flex & Wowgo 3x), I seriously doubt that it will ever be sold at full price.
So what about the board?
First things first, here are the specs:
Looking at the product photo it is very easy to see that Backfire Zealot is practically a “belt-driven Backfire G3” so much of what Zealot will be can be known by referring to Backfire G3 (click to read review) .
Breaking it down:
Backfire Zealot has the usual good things going for it. A good top speed (28.5mph/ 46kmh), a flexible bamboo deck with an aggressive concave that has proven to be very comfortable.
Then, there is the Caliber II Front truck. The back truck that mounts the motor is unfortunately not from Caliber but is Backfire’s proprietary truck. No worry though, Backfire’s proprietary trucks are usually pretty good.
(Edited at 22th May 2021: The motor has been updated) Backfire Zealot is using 2 x 5255 5250 motors. These are slightly smaller than 5255 that are pretty standard in production boards and are seen in the likes of Exway or Wowgo 3x. They are rated as 650W 750W each and are from Hobbywing., so I assume they are the same set as the pair on Wowgo 3X, which had proven to perform well.
Going with belt-drive also means we can be very flexible with wheel choice. The stock wheels are 96mm 78A with ABEC core. And soon they will be 105mm Cloudwheels option available. (It will be the updated Discovery core, for those who are following the latest eskate news.)
(Eskate historian here: Did you know, despite Backfire’s focus on hub motor all these years, their first board was a belt-drive?)
Things that I’m not optimistic about:
The things that I’m really worried about will be the range. Backfire Zealot has a marketed range of 22miles (30km). This is very likely inflated to some extent seeing that the Backfire G3 Plus with a more efficient hub setup and a bigger battery was only making 15 miles (24km) in our range test – That was only 60% of the marketed range. I’m pretty pessimistic about the range for Zealot.
Even trying to get a theoretical estimate of the range is difficult as the disclosed battery specs are pretty confusing. For instance, I really like to know what cells Zealot is using as the numbers don’t quite add up.
4000mah per cell
This should bring us to a 346wh pack and not 311wh given by Backfire. Oh well, maybe just a typo somewhere. I wish I know what cell they use though.
For reference, Backfire G3 Plus is using 12s2p setting with 4000mah 21700 cells (Samsung 40T) and gives a 346wh pack.
So would it beat the current top choices?
Regardless of the nitpicks, Backfire Zealot is pretty promising. All the parts should come together to give a great riding experience and the promised new smartphone app is just the icing on the cake.
In short, I’m pretty excited for the Zealot and would like to see if it can snatch away the throne of the “Best mid-tier belt board” from Exway Flex.
A few months ago, I reviewed the Evolve Bamboo GTR. If you haven’t read that review, check it out here. The GTR marked Evolve’s move to fix all the performance issues of the GT series that’s plagued the company for as long as the GT series existed. I concluded that the GTR series did seem to fix commonly discussed issues with the implementation of new battery and wireless technology, and that if you were considering an Evolve board, the GTR series would be the one to get.
The issue with the GTR series, however, is the fact that they’re heavy. The lithium ion cells that Evolve now uses are heavier than the lithium polymer prismatic pouches that Evolve used to use assuming equivalent capacities, forged trucks are heavier than the old cast trucks, and both the new carbon and bamboo deck constructions, while definitely more solid and confidence inspiring, are also heavier. The boards are also very long. They’re not easy to stash in tight spaces, and they’re ungainly to carry around.
This is all well and good for a long range cruiser carver, but what happens when you want a board just for running errands? For that quick jaunt down to your favorite watering hole? For your super short commute that you really don’t wanna lug around a whole longboard for?
A derivative, not alternative
This review will be a branch off my previous GTR review, so if you haven’t read that, again, I highly suggest you read it here. That previous review goes over what I think about Evolve’s next generation hardware and electronics. This piece will be solely about my experiences so far with the Stoke with a focus on the form factor and hardware differences with regards to its bigger sister.
So let’s go over the differences
Of course, the most obvious difference is the new, shorter deck. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call the Stoke a shortboard at 33.5 inches (850.9mm if you’re not in Americaland), but it is a shorter board. The 4ply bamboo, 2ply fiberglass deck layup is nice, if only slightly lacking in concave, but I didn’t really have a huge problem with that. The deck is a fair bit stiffer than the Bamboo GTR deck, so don’t expect the same sort of cushy ride that you would get there. However, that’s not to say the ride isn’t comfortable. It is. Quite. I did not have a single issue riding this board on rough streets.
The Stoke has a kicktail. This is good news for some who enjoy having one, but there’s EVA foam on the tail, which honestly sort of made the tail more slippery than it probably should have been. However, it made resting part of my foot on the kicktail while riding quite comfortable. Sort of a give and take then I suppose, so my own personal jury is still out on whether I’ll be using the tail a whole lot, but I look forward to trying out some sick manuals and shit.
Oh, one other note about the kicktail. As many keen eyed observers have noticed, the motor mounts on the Stoke are rear facing, so there were concerns about the actual usability of the kicktail and long term durability of the board. I think the concerns are well founded and valid, and in my testing, the rear facing mounts do hinder the full use of the kicktail.
However, the hinderance ended up to be minor, I found. You can still use the kicktail to tic tac in everyday riding, and a friend was able to do a kickflip on it (sad I didn’t think to get this on video). The mounts are also thicc, and come with crossbars that are even more thiccc (three c’s so you know it’s serious), so I’m not worried about long term durability.
The Stoke comes stock with 85mm Orangatang wheels with your choice of durometer. Honestly, I really like these wheels. Otang’s Happy Thane never fails to impress and gives a nice, grippy ride. The catch with the Stoke, however, is you can’t go larger than 85mm on your wheels. Anything larger may induce wheel bite, which is when your deck touches your wheel during a turn or carve. Of course, this means you’re limited in your wheel choice.
To be honest I didn’t really have a problem with this. As anybody who knows me will attest to, I ride all my trucks super loose. As the saying goes, loose trucks save lives. But all terrain lovers may be slightly miffed about the inability to swap larger wheels onto the board.
Evolve fitted the Stoke with their travel battery. This is a 10S2P pack made up of Sony VTC4 cells. These cells have a rather high discharge, rated at 20A at low temperatures, allowing for a higher current draw from the pack. However, they have a lower capacity, at 2100mAh. This means it’s it’s not really “half the range of the standard battery” as I’ve heard many people say, it’s really a bit less than that. In my testing, I get a fair 8-10 miles of real world hard hilly riding in Pro mode. And as in the GTR series, the battery meter ticks down nicely and accurately with full power ’till the very end.
So what’s it like all put together?
Honestly it’s a pretty good ride. My daily commuter and errand runner is the Exway X1 Pro which I reviewed here. I use that board as my every day driver in large part because of its portability and maneuverability. When I started testing the Stoke, I replaced the Exway with it as my daily driver.
…And I’m glad to say that I didn’t have to change any part of my routine! The Stoke simply fit right in and remained just as portable and maneuverable as the Exway. To be honest, I’m surprised that this is the case. The Stoke is quite a bit larger and heavier, so naturally one would think it would be more cumbersome. Not so. I really enjoyed it as my daily, and look forward to keep on trying it in new use cases. I’m traveling East soon, and since the board uses Evolve’s flight battery, I wanna try and bring it with me. Will the Stoke fly? We’ll find out!
Overall, it’s a good package. For those who are looking for it, the Stoke provides simplicity and portability. I’m “stoked” to be able to try it out and take it around town (you know I had to do it).
It was a day like any other day on March 30, 2019 when I got an email from Jeff Anning.
“Hi Sophia,” it started. “My name is Jeff Anning, I’m the founder of Evolve Skateboards based in Australia and we have been manufacturing and distributing Electric Skateboards since 2009. I’m emailing you to see if you would be interested in doing a review for us. We have some cool things ahead and now at a stage where we are looking for potential reviewers who may be interested in working with us. We do have our USA partner whom can assist with logistics etc and is more than happy assist with anything that may be required. If you have any questions please let me know, cheers for your time :)”
Of course, I leapt at the chance. Evolve Skateboards. I mean come on! They’re one of the few companies in the eskate world that cater specifically and directly to high end consumers. Their boards are fun to ride despite their well documented problems, and they’re secretive. Who wouldn’t want to get a first look at what they’re up to?
My first experience with Evolve was with their third generation board, the Carbon GT. At first, I thought it was the best thing ever. Then I started to experience the issues. Remote disconnects, battery sag up hills, almost no power to do anything meaningful once it drained past half battery. The problems were exacerbated here in San Francisco as it’s a very wirelessly dense and hilly city. After a while, I became unhappy with the performance and moved on to bigger and better things.
However, I always wondered what Evolve would do to fix these problems. Make no mistake, these weren’t isolated incidents I was having, the problems were very real. There’s no way they wouldn’t be working to fix this stuff.
Well, what have Evolve been up to all this time? Let’s find out.
When I first opened up the box and caught my first glimpse of the Bamboo GTR, my immediate first impression was that it simply looked fantastic. An all new super flex deck, new thicc enclosure, new white (!) wheels, new matte finished trucks. The combination just looks great. I love classic looks, and this is most surely a classic look. The wide wheelbase coupled with the natural wood deck striped with griptape on either side is just super. You’d be hard pressed to find a better looking board.
I’m told by Evolve that the new GTR series shares no components with the 3rd generation GT series. Even if things look similar, every component has been at least re-engineered. A new manufacturing method for the trucks (forging and CNCing instead of casting), a new deck manufacturer with a different construction method, a new motor construction with a focus on reliability, and new wheels with new formula poured by AEND, the same factory that pours wheels for other leading wheel brands like ABEC.
New wheels. Let’s talk about the wheels for a second. First off, they’re really great. I mean really. I’ve tried all the ABEC wheels, all Evolve’s old wheels, and a whole bunch of other wheels. The rebound on the urethane is great, and it really grips the road and takes potholes well. I run Boas on my main DIY board, and honestly I like these 97s ever so slightly better. It’s high praise, I know, and the durability and long term coloration of these wheels are still to be determined, but so far so very good.
Speaking of so far so good, the deck is also a lot improved from the previous bamboo deck. There’s a lot more flex, a lot more distinctive concave, and personally I think the design is a lot better. It’s also a bit longer than the previous one at 38 inches, and features multiple sets of mounting holes so you can adjust your ride position. Of course, the enclosure that goes on the deck is equally flexy and solidly built, with improved waterproofing by way of rubber gaskets and improved sealing, and in my opinion the battery pack that goes inside is also much improved. But let’s talk about that later.
All this coupled with the new more precision made trucks makes for a fantastically comfortable ride. I had absolutely no problems rolling over any potholes that I otherwise would have to watch out and brace for, even though I’m on 97mm wheels. It’s so cliche and cheesy saying this, but I can tell they really focused on the ride first and foremost. So good!
Of course, no Evolve product is complete without the ability to swap to all terrain hardware. I did not get to test this feature in my review as they didn’t send me any AT hardware, but if it worked like it did in the previous generation, I’d expect it to work quite well. There are new tire colors, sizes, and rims, something for everybody. I’m also told that the new Evolve website will have a board builder feature where you can customize your perfect board and have that arrive at your doorstep instead of a stock configuration. I think this is really great and an unprecedented option in eskate.
But skate hardware is not everything when it comes to eskates right?
Right. The electronics are of the utmost importance and tell the other side of the ride story. Performance, control, and reliability of electronics all play a huge part in how an eskate handles and feels to ride. Previously, on the 3rd generation GTs, some of my most major complaints were somewhat jerky early braking curves at high speeds, weirdly jerky throttle application, remote disconnections, and inconsistent power.
Let’s start with the braking curve. I’m happy to report that compared to the previous generation, it’s much improved. The same Evolve motor control algorithm is present, and the customary motor whine is still there, so if you were hoping for that to go away, you will be disappointed. However, braking from high speeds no longer jerks on initial application but instead comes on smoothly and predictably. This was a painpoint for me as bombing hills at high speed is something I do regularly and it really used to be very nervewracking on the Carbon GT. Now I no longer worry when I’m on the GTR. As for throttle during acceleration, while it does feel smoother than the previous generation, it’s not so much of a difference that I’d say it’s gamechanging.
But braking and acceleration curves mean nothing if the dang thing isn’t reliable. So let’s talk about that.
The R2 remote was somewhat controversial when it first launched. The design was wholly unique, and many people’s opinions were split. I personally even preferred the original remote and eschewed the R2 because of that.
However, I’ve come to realize that all I really had to do was stick with it. Now, on my second go at using the R2 remote daily, I’m finding that it really is a fairly good remote in terms of ergonomics and controls. I have smaller hands so it’s ever so slightly on the chunky side, but it’s not so bulky that I have a hard time using it. It’s now heftier due to a larger battery than the original R2 and even comes in several colors if you’re into that sort of thing. A battery saving features has now been built in as well where the screen automatically turning on/off depending on if you raise to look at it or not.
Now all that is well and good, but the major headlining feature for the GTR R2 remote, is the Bluetooth connection. There may be some confusion around this subject so let me explain. Evolve did not actually change the radio technology they use to transfer data. Bluetooth is a protocol, transmitted via the same radio frequency they used to use, 2.4GHz. Done correctly, 2.4GHz remotes are some of the most reliable remotes available.
Now, it’s no secret that old Evolve remotes have had connection issues. It’s also no secret that their remotes have had pairing issues. I’ve had many an instance where I’ve simply turned on my old Carbon GT as I regularly did and had it simply refuse to connect. I’ve also had many an instance where the remote would simply disconnect on me while riding. I know firsthand that these things happened with the old R2. And although I no longer have an old R2 remote, I also know exactly where I can reproduce disconnections on bad remotes in general. Now that I’ve been given this opportunity to put the GTR through its paces, I must also test the remote as thoroughly as I can.
Please note before you read the below that my board and remote was both running prototype firmware. There were some bugs in general that did not affect riding.
I really tried to get this remote to disconnect. San Francisco is a very wirelessly dense city with tons of interference, and I made sure to run through the thick of it. In my test, I rode through all the challenging areas of SF: The streets of Chinatown, the heart of the Financial District, directly under high voltage bus lines, up Twin Peaks and around the high powered radio towers. I ran errands on the board, commuted to work on the board, did 20+ mile nonstop rides across hilly and mountainous terrain on the board. Not a single drop while riding where the old R2 once had issues for me.
There is one caveat though. If I stand at a certain street corner near my house for a period of time, I can maybe make the remote disconnect. I can’t reproduce this reliably (in fact the two times it happened I was not attempting to reproduce it at all) and it’s only happened twice and only on this specific street corner, but I believe it bears mentioning. There were a few other firmware related issues with my review unit, chief amongst which was a bug where the remote wouldn’t re-establish connection with the board after the board times out and turns off then is turned back on again, so I’m more willing to chalk this issue up to a firmware bug. Evolve tells me these issues have already been fixed on the release firmware, but only time will tell if they really have been fixed. All I can say is that in my times testing it, I have not had a single issue where I most surely would have already on the old hardware.
If the remotes were the foremost controversial thing about the 3rd generation GT boards, the battery packs that ran them were the secondmost.
Reports of battery sag and being kicked down to Eco mode going uphill have been abound for the last few years, and it’s been a major sticking point for the GT series boards. It’s also no secret that CEO of Evolve Jeff Anning has had very public strong opinions about Evolve’s then battery technology of choice: lithium polymer prismatic packs. In any case, this was something Evolve dearly needed to fix. And fix it they did.
Let’s get some facts out of the way. The new Evolve Powerflex packs are 10s4p Samsung 35e batteries. This means the cells are arranged in packs of four, wired in series. 35e cells are 3500mAh cells that can do 8A discharge. It’s somewhat surprising that Evolve has chosen to go this route, as the 35e drops voltage faster than another popular cell for eskate, the 30q. Here’s a comparison between the 35e and 30q:
And here’s a comparison between the 35e and VTC6, yet another popular cell for eskate:
As you can see, voltage drops quite drastically in both single cell performance comparisons, which means packs built out of 35e cells will experience more battery sag than packs built out of the other two cell types.
But does it matter?
When Evolve told me about their new battery technologies, they stressed that their first main focus was battery safety. Their second main focus was power at all battery levels. This means that regardless of the state of charge, you should experience similar torque. Taking off at 100% in GTR mode should feel the same as taking off at 10% in GTR.
I’ve tested this to the best of my ability and, well, they’re not lying. Torque is similar at all battery levels. Climbing hills at 10% felt the same as 100%, albeit slower, and I remained in GTR the entire way. The battery indicator did not fluctuate wildly either. This is honestly a fantastic improvement. With this, one of my major complaints about Evolve boards was solved completely.
Heading to the top of Twin Peaks, San Francisco is a route I ride regularly, and it’s no easy route. It’s a fairly steep climb all the way to the top if you start at Market St near the Castro or the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park, and it’s the route I take if I want to test performance of a board under high constant load. I took the Bamboo GTR up that route, and recorded the whole thing. Here’s the video. Note that the video starts when I was already halfway up:
I’d say that’s pretty impressive. The whole route up I only dropped 20% battery according to the remote, and maintained power the entire time.
Range is quite good too. On range tests over very hilly terrain (basically all of San Francisco), I was consistently hitting over the 20 mile mark riding briskly. As you can see in the ride tracked on the left even an 145lb person can do a 21 mile run and still get home with 7% battery all in GTR. This includes literally riding up a mountain. This is extremely good and quite impressive for a board in San Francisco. I have no doubt on flatter ground it’s entirely possible to hit the 30 mile range advertised even in GTR mode. Really good shit.
One of the major improvements Evolve claims they’ve made to their battery system is that they’ve found a way to allow the entire pack to flex an insane amount.
I’m not talking about just a little bend, I’m talking about you can bend the entire pack into an almost tube shape. They also told me they’ve redesigned every single internal electrical component. So of course I opened it up, and here’s what I found.
The electronics enclosure is split into two parts: the ESC housing and the battery pack and BMS housing. You can remove one or the other quite easily simply by removing the screws from the top. Each enclosure has been dustproofed and waterproofed, though Evolve won’t say what the rating is.
Each enclosure has a plastic cover that’s screwed down, and there are o-rings and gaskets around every point of ingress. It’s very clean.
Opening up the battery enclosure, we find the underside of the flexible battery PCB. The entire assembly is pressfit into the enclosure tightly to prevent movement, so it takes quite some effort to pull out.
But pull it out I did, and here’s what it looks like.
You can clearly see how flexible this pack is. I’m actually very impressed with the design of this pack. The traces on the PCB can actually carry around 200A, even though the full pack is rated at 32A continuous and 52A burst. Evolve says that average continuous riding will hit 20A discharge and that in their side by side comparisons with the same pack made of 30q cells, the 35e performed better. I don’t claim to know what metrics they’re looking at for performance, but this is what I’ve been told.
Going over to the ESC enclosure, we remove its cover to find the newly redesigned ESC.
You can see the ceramic antenna for the remote embedded on the right side of the ESC, and two wires going to the USB breakout board. These power the two rear facing USB ports for accessories.
I think time will tell how well this enclosure system holds up. Evolve tells me they got to where they are now from breaking countless iterations, fixing, and breaking again so they’re very sure of the hardware, and honestly I believe them. Everything I see here is quite high quality and obviously built to last.
So after all that, I have a few observations.
The GTR is a brand new product inside and out. It may look similar to the 3rd generation GT boards, but honestly, it’s really not. As far as I can tell, almost everything is improved in a forward thinking way. Even the motors have been redesigned with stronger components, are now vented, and now feature a single hot swap connector for some mysterious purpose.
I think a lot of people will look at this board and go “well it looks similar to the old one, why upgrade? I can just send my current GT to a battery upgrade service and be done with it,” and of course, you can do that. But I think unless you’re also planning on swapping the ESC out for something like a FOCbox Unity, the new GTR would probably still be a better bet due to the numerous upgrades.
I really love the new 97s. I think they’re a great wheel with great rebound, and I love the white color scheme even though it gets dirty fairly quickly here in SF. They’re so good that I’m willing to jump in and get four sets. HMU Jeff Anning 😉
I think it’s a good move for Evolve to move to 18650s, even if they’re not admitting they were wrong in the past. It’s an even better move for the consumer as now they don’t have to deal with the headaches related to voltage sag and can just ride. We’ll call it a win-win yeah?
The new Bamboo GTR deck is just great. You gotta take it for a ride.
But Sof, would you recommend it?
I’ve been riding the new Bamboo GTR for the better part of two weeks. It’s less time than I would have liked, and certainly less time than I typically ride other boards before I give my opinion.
In addition, the release schedule of this review had to be very unexpectedly and very annoyingly bumped forward quite a bit because of certain circumstances regarding a certain YouTuber, but I think what it boils down to is this.
Riding an electric skateboard, as with any other leisure sport, is an activity that should be enjoyed. That’s the bottom line. If your only focus is speed and that’s what you enjoy, this is not the board for you. If you hate belt drives, this is not the board for you. But at the end of the day, there’s only one question that needs to be asked. Do you smile when you ride the GTR? I know I do.
Update On Remote Connection
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that I was getting dropouts on the remote at certain places during my testing. Evolve chalked it up to issues the prototype unit had and assured me that the issues wouldn’t persist in the production unit. Of course, I didn’t simply believe them, so Evolve was kind enough to arrange for me to get on a production board and ride to my problem spots around San Francisco to test if things have really gotten better.
I’m happy to report that I had no issues whatsoever. Down Polk, down Market, up the entirety of California, around Chinatown, no disconnects occurred. Of course, this is not a comprehensive testing and consumer results remain to be seen, but in areas where I previously had issues with the prototype, I now had no issues with the production unit. I’m fairly satisfied for now.
Not the most flashy company, Arc Board EV from Singapore has been putting out quality boards since the launch of their Arc Penny(AKA Arc Board) on 30th August 2016. Following the success of Arc Penny, the Arc team launched the original Arc Aileron, which is also regarded as one of the best electric shortboard available to the market.
Throughout the years and with this 2 main products, Arc has established itself as a trustworthy brand that makes good boards.
Fast forward to the 2nd April 2018, the Arc team announced not one but two up-coming new products, the Arc Finix and Arc Aileron 2.0. Both of this boards will be rocking the new “Arc Fusion” geared drive designed by the Arc team. This is exciting as the Arc Aileron V2 will be among the first geared drive powered electric skateboard to hit the market.
I was given the chance to thoroughly test out the pre-production model of the Arc Aileron V2 and get a taste of how well the Arc Fusion drive works, and spoiler alert, its good!
Introduction of Arc Board EV
Being near from Singapore where Arc Board EV is based, I am quite familiar with the Arc team. In fact, I was given the opportunity to visit their operation in Singapore earlier this year and wrote a story on this small yet respectable start-up.
Though not a very talked about brand in the global Eskate community, the Arc team has gained the trust of those who paid any attention to them. They are a small team of electric skateboard start-up that doesn’t try to do too much, yet everything they did, they did it well.
Ever since they first launched their Kickstarter Campaign on the original Arc Penny in August 2016, Arc team has never let their customers down. Always on-time in delivering great quality products and follow up that with great customer service, the Arc team is well-loved by the community it serves.
The Arc Line-Up
Listing in the upcoming Arc Aileron V2 and Arc Finix, the Arc team will soon to have 4 products in the line-up: The Arc Penny, Arc Aileron V1, Arc Aileron V2 and the Arc Finix.
While I consider Arc Penny the best electric penny board on the market and Arc Aileron V1 great shortboard balancing riding comfort and portability, the Arc boards were seemingly at risk to be drowned out by competition as more and more new eskate show up with crazy specs and crazier price. This changed with the announcement of Arc Aileron V2 and Arc Finix.
Arc team has chosen to answer the competition through innovation. Their in-house designed geared drive motor, the Arc fusion drive, is looking to give them a significant competitive edge.
While the much anticipated Arc Finix, which should be available by the end of this year, will use a dual motor set-up with two Arc fusion drive; the Arc Aileron V2 will be powered by single Arc fusion drive and be one of the first geared drive board to lead this post-hub motor era.
Arc Aileron V2 Review
So how does Arc Aileron V2 came to be?
“Among all the ideas we have, we choose to go forward with the Arc Aileron V2 and the fusion drive to solve a problem I have – the need for more range. I tried to ride to the office with the original Arc Aileron and couldn’t get all the way through.”
“The fusion drive, on top of many performance improvements, solve the range issue. By changing the belt drive to a more efficient geared drive gives you 2 times the range.”
“Instead of being the last mile solution, we want the Arc Aileron V2 to go the ‘full miles’, so you can skip the MRT or bus and just skate the whole way to your destination on the V2”
Paraphrasing Hung Yi from Arc team
Arc Aileron V2 Specs
Arc Aileron V2 is all-rounded in specs.
Top Speed: 25mph (40kmh)
Range: 19mil (30km)
Weight: 12.1lbs (5.5kg)
Charge Time: 70min
Features: Weatherproof, Regenerative Braking.
Price: less than 1400 USD.
Arc Aileron might be one of the toughest board on the market right now. It has an industrial black and grey look with none of those fancy color scheme and rounded edges.
The look of the Arc boards definitely reflected Arc team’s philosophy – substances over style.
The Arc Aileron V2 continue the use of Aileron carbon fiber deck from 121C.
The aerospace grade pure carbon fiber deck allows the deck to be lighter and thinner, something that helped Arc Aileron to be the lightest electric shortboard in the market.
This carbon fiber deck is also very durable. It might be the only skateboard deck that could survive being run over by a car, something that seems to happen more than a few times these recent months… (stay safe guys.)
The Arc Aileron V2 will be the first board to use the newly developed geared drive – Arc Fusion Drive.
A few electric skateboard company has their own iteration of the geared drive motor: the Carvon has had theirs for a while now and JED board has been making it their marketing focal point for the delayed JED board. None of those product has yet to make a significant impact on the mass market so it was so surprising when the Arc team announced that they have a market-ready geared drive! (note: Carvon’s geared drive is available for purchase, but its complete eskate is currently stuck in delay hell.) (note2: JED board which made famous the geared drive through its marketing effort is just beginning to start its production phase. So it’s likely that the V2 is going to be available around the same time (June) as the JED preorders (scheduled May but most likely will see slight delays.)
Apparently, the Arc team have been keeping the Arc Fusion R&D close to their chest for a good half year now.
If you are not interested in the geared drives, well, you should!
A lot of words are needed to explain about the geared drive so I will skip the explaining of what they are (think belt drive without the belt) and straight to what it means for the user.
Basically, with geared drive, you have a system that is more efficient while requires less maintenance compares to a belt drive. The geared drive also allows the use of standard longboard wheels – meaning significantly smoother rides. It also made possible the easy swapping of wheels and interchangeable AT/street set-up. These are the things that hub motor could not do. The geared drive system also retains the responsive feel and instant acceleration that only belt-drives and high-end hub motors can offer. On the other hand, unlike the belt motor, geared drive free-rolls well. In fact, it free-rolls better than a hub motor!
One of the criticisms of the geared drive as made famous by JED board is having a high-pitch steel to steel grind noise. Hence, many are waiting to hear how the Arc Fusion drive sounds. After testing out the V2 myself, I am happy to report that Arc Fusion drive is only as noisy as a regular belt drive motor, no high-pitch noise.
Another concern that I have for a geared drive is their durability, especially when Arc Aileron V2 is the ‘virgin voyage’ of a new motor system.
While it is a good comfort to know that Arc team has been running its Arc Fusion drive under the radar for 4 months now, the real comfort lies with knowing that I can trust the team to have my back should there be issues down the line.
That’s the importance of buying from people you trust.
With the V2, Arc team finally upgraded the wheels of their boards from 70mm to 90mm. Undoubtedly, it is a move that they were forced to make to allow more ground clearance for the board. The bigger wheel took abit away from that agile feel I experience from the V1 but allows the board to skate on less than perfect road.
I found wheels size and durometer matters most in dampening vibration and in the case of V2, the four big soft 90mm 75a wheels smooth out vibration better than an ultra flex deck on a hub motor would.
Love the change.
With the aerospace grade pure carbon fiber deck from 121C, CNC part made in Singapore by REI Promax and with every unit assembled by the Arc-Team themselves, the Arc Aileron’s quality is one of its brightest points.
They have the track record to prove it too.
Acceleration and Deceleration
With a well-tuned VESC, the Arc Aileron V2 has a butter smooth acceleration and deceleration curve. There is no surprise considering the Arc team already manage to nail that in the 1st gen Arc Aileron.
By using the geared drive, the Arc Aileron retained that instant & responsive acceleration that belt-drives are known for. When releasing the acceleration, there are no jolts, and the board free-wheeled so well that it felt as if it might never stop. Significantly better than hubs.
I used to be so nervous trying to brake on an electric skateboard, yet for the Arc Aileron V2, there is no such concern. There were no jolts felt. 100% smooth – I promise.
While most of the skateboard has 2 or even 5 riding modes to cater to different needs, Arc Aileron V2 doesn’t have that and doesn’t need that. It is too easy to control the rate of acceleration and the top speed with the remote dial and you won’t even be thinking about the ride modes. It was only when I was writing the review that it dawned on me that Arc Aileron V2 doesn’t have different speed modes.
The control is just that awesome.
10/10 man. Bravo.
Vibration & Stability
As per usual, we took the Arc Aileron V2 to a cobblestone road to test out how it handles vibration.
As mentioned prior, the Arc Aileron V2 is quite well in handling vibration. Though the carbon fiber deck is not known to be the most flexible, the 75a 90mm wheels really help in dampening vibration.
On the downside, the deck doesn’t have any concave to it so it doesn’t help to “grip” your foot during rides. So when my feet were numb during the cobblestone ride, a concave deck might help and ease the feeling of my feet slipping off the deck. But obviously, you can’t have a thin carbon fiber deck and still ask for it to have concave too, can you?
Using a single dial with plenty of throws, Arc version of eskate remote is among the best out there. The remote is big and simple in design.
I think the size works for me and I find it very comfortable to hold in hand.
No disconnection of course. And they have chosen to disable the reverse function, a change that I am fans of.
As I mentioned, it is so easy to fine tune the acceleration, braking and top speed that the V2 doesn’t need speed mode to help with the control.
By the way, its using AA battery instead of lithium.
Summary of Riding Experience
Arc Aileron V2 offers the best riding experience one can ask from a shortboard. Riding on the V2, I couldn’t think of anything to improve it on. Good in tight maneuver and awesome in cruising, the V2 does its job perfectly.
The acceleration and deceleration are both so easy to control that I am confident it suits both newbie and the pros.
19miles or 30kmh range is exactly what an efficient geared drive motor can do – doubling the range of a belt drive system.
In our testing, the Arc Aileron V2 can reach 23mph (38kmh) for a 165lbs(75kg) rider in a normal stance. This means that the marketing top speed of 25mph(40kmh) is definitely achievable with a (155lbs)70kg rider in a speed tuck. It’s not something I would want to do on a shortboard deck but hey, you do you!
The Arc Aileron V2 is marketed to handle 19% uphill climb.
In my standard uphill hill test, the V2 is able to conquer the incline if given a running start. It couldn’t do a stop-and-go on a steep incline. It is a single drive electric skateboard after all.
Note: If given too big of a load, the geared drive will sputter. This is bad for the motor so it is best not to abuse it.
Customer service is a bright spot for the Arc team. They have been here for a while and their track record has been perfect.
Customer for Singapore has a fast and easy access to the Arc team (its a city-state after all). For international customers, the Arc team works with other people and company around the world to provide better and faster repair service.
If you are from the US, Long-Hair-Boy will be the one helping the repair if something goes wrong with your Arc while for EU customers, Cedric from Unikboards will be handling the repair and warranty. Last but not least, the customers from South East Asia and Australia will still be nearest to Arc team and will be serviced by the team themselves.
The Arc boards are usually simple boards without much belts and whistles.
The Arc Aileron V2 kept the same philosophy. No smartphone app, no built-in LED. Just a tough electric skateboard.
The best part of the Arc Aileron V2 is the portability. At 12lbs(5.5kg), it is only second to the belt-drive Arc Aileron V1 (9.5lbs/ 4.3kg) for the top places as the lightest electric shortboard.
While the original Arc Aileron has its niche, the electric shortboard market was seeing fierce competition and the Arc team needed to make a move.
The Arc Aileron V2 with its geared drive is the perfect solution. Instead of going into a price & specs war, Arc team decided to lead the electric skateboard market with their new geared drive technology.
Amongst all the shortboard in the market, I would place the Aileron V2 as a better board over even the recently announced Boosted Mini X. Aileron V2 is simply better in performance and more practical to travel around with considering the weight. Aileron V2 is also on par with quality and ride feel comparing to the Boosted. Well, V2 cost $300 more than the Boosted Mini X so it would be only reasonable to expect a better value.
Although as a single drive electric skateboard, the Arc Aileron V2 is not the best hill climber, it is still the perfect electric shortboard for a lot of people. It can be fast for the pros and it can be tame for the noobs. It is light enough to travel around and comfortable enough to cruise.
Arc Aileron V2 also has the customer service and the build quality to give the peace of mind.
If you are in the market for an electric shortboard, there shouldn’t be a lot of reason to turn down the V2 if the $1300 price-tag is within your budget.
This review was originally published on February 5th, 2018 and reflects my honest opinions at the time of publication. No part of this review has been redacted in any way. It has only been corrected for grammar and spelling.
Yesterday (09/30/17) I rolled myself down to the Embarcadero in San Francisco at 2PM to attend the Riptide Ridealong, which was an event that /u/spooky_ghost, someone who I frequently skate with, set up in conjunction with the Riptide folks. I’d been looking forward to this event, as I really wanted to try out the Riptide R1, which was one of the extremely few recent boards that list realistic specs and set seemingly realistic expectations.
During the ridealong, I was able to get a huge amount of unfiltered access to the board. I’d swapped boards with Eric, CEO of Riptide/Shredlights, so was able to ride the R1 about 4.5 miles through all types of terrain, especially significant hills and extremely rough roads. My deepest apologies to Eric, I hope you weren’t freaking out too much when us in the back disappeared… We headed to Last Mile SF as stated on the schedule after we lost you guys in front!
Please keep in mind that what I tested was a prototype and that this review should not be construed as condoning of condemning the final product.
I rode both R1s (R1 regular and Elite) and was ultimately able to put the R1 regular through the ride test.
This is a fun board. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s clear that Eric and co. know their target demographic, and know them well. The board itself has this stout, chubby build and look, which makes it really endearing and feel really sturdy. The deck length is about 31″ so it’s not really the most comfortable board for long rides (my legs were completely numb three miles into my long ride), but if you’re looking to bang up and down some waterside paths or a park path, it will do just fine. The dual motor setup is adequately powerful for something this small, and is actually quite torquey. Although it’s not going to beat anything else off the line, during my times riding I’ve actually been thrown off the back a couple of times due to the acceleration, though this is also in part due to another issue which I will highlight later. Throughout my ride, up and down hills, I was constantly worried that the board would not be able to make it up or brake properly going down, but those worries were unfounded as the board performed admirably even when the road got extremely potholey and rough.
I think it will be great having a board this small. You can take it anywhere, and I do mean anywhere, as it comes in under airline battery restrictions. I’m a frequent traveler, and while I don’t plan on bringing any boards with me anytime soon, I can imagine other people would want to. It’s easy to throw this board in a variety of places.
Under a strap on your backpack
In your carry on
In your trunk
Down a halfpipe
Down on the boardwalk
Up in NYC
Off a curb
Don’t throw it:
To the sharks
Off a bridge
On your junk
The options for where to throw this thing is endless.
Having a proper kicktail means that you can now do so much more due to the increased maneuverability. Turning a tight corner is now not a problem. If you’re strong and heavy enough, you can also try and do ollies, or hit up skate parks. Eric said that one of the goals for the bottom electronics enclosure was for it to be strong enough to take regular beatings, so I can imagine people more skilled than I pulling off proper tricks on this thing.
The remote is the same as the Meepo remote, that is to say it’s nothing special. It works. There’s a thumbwheel for acceleration and deceleration. Right under that is the switch for low/high power mode. At the bottom of the remote is the on/off switch. Holding the remote in your right hand, on the left surface you’ll find your battery indicator and forward/reverse button. It’s worth noting that the battery indicator here has three dots, while the indicator on the board itself has four bars. It’s an odd inconsistency, and made it confusing for me to gauge just how much power the board actually had at a given time. At one point, I saw one dot on the remote but two dots on the board, which made it really confusing for me to plan my route to the next destination. Eric did make it clear that they were using off the shelf parts, so I imagine there’s not that much leeway in what he gets to customize.
Another issue with the remote, and I think the biggest one, was responsiveness. There is extremely noticeable lag-time between action and response, which is not a good thing when you’re on a board like this. Since balancing is paramount on a smaller deck, you’re constantly shifting your weight to get the best footing for every situation. Because you’re doing so much work to keep yourself upright, you trust the board to help you. But in the case of the laggy remote, it becomes very hard to trust the remote to provide the correct amount of power at the correct time when it’s unpredictable when the remote will lag and when it won’t. I believe this inconsistent power delivery is the issue at the heart of why I got thrown off those couple of times, and Riptide does need to fix this as a high priority issue.
Rider specs: 125lb at 5’6″
As much as I was able to, I tried to do as scientific of tests as possible. I was only able to measure extremely limited measurements, but I’ll do my best to describe to you results of my tests as best I can. It is worth noting that I did these tests when the battery was at around 50-60%.
On normal mode, acceleration was slow and easy. Nothing to see here. On pro mode, acceleration was still nice, but there were some weird starting judders. It felt like grinding gears a bit. I’m not sure what it was, but it only manifested sometimes. It’s a little bit disturbing, especially when going uphill as you don’t feel that power delivery when the grinding happens, but I’ll chalk it up to prototype weirdness.
I did my 0 to full speed acceleration test eight times in quick succession. About three times out of those eight, I encountered different acceleration curves because the remote lagged when I gunned it from a full stop. This further highlights the remote/power delivery issue. I *really* hope they fix it.
My speedometer said 17. That’s close enough to their advertised 18mph top speed that I believe their claims. Maybe the board would have had just slightly enough power to hit 18 on full charge. Of course this isn’t the fastest board out there, but it’s quite fast for a small board.
Braking is pretty good. There doesn’t seem to be a perceivable different between normal mode braking and pro mode braking. Both bring you to a stop from top speed at a reasonable distance, and is gentle enough that you won’t get thrown off the board. It does not have a short braking distance though, so definitely keep that in mind in relation to your speed when navigating through areas with dense traffic.
One aspect of braking that I did not test was braking at 100% battery. Eric informed me that they do not yet have a solution for braking at 100% battery, but are working with their manufacturer to come up with one. I believe braking is one of the paramount issues to eskate safety today, so the fact that it was not part of the design from the get go worries me a bit. However, since I don’t have visibility into Riptide’s design process, I can’t comment very much on that. I just hope they are able to fix the issue in the final production boards because they really are risking injury to the rider.
Stress handling tests involve continuously taking the board to full throttle immediately from a completely standstill, immediately braking, then immediately accelerating again in a loop. I did the cycle 10 times each on flat ground in a parking lot and 10 times on slightly sloped ground going down and up. I’m happy to report that the R1 exhibited no problems during any of these situations except for the issues I illustrated above.
The R1 is capable of performing some sharp turns. There are wheel wells on the underside of the deck to facilitate really deep carves, which is great. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the bushings they used, which seemed rather stiff to me, but that’s not really an issue since bushing can be swapped out easily depending on personal preference. No problems here!
I didn’t get to race the R1 directly against a boosted board, but having ridden both V1 and V2 BBs, I think the R1 would pretty much match the capabilities. There’s no point pitting it against any higher powered boards because that’s not their market. Eric specifically stated that he imagined the R1 to be people’s secondary board for shorter rides where large boards are overkill, and I respect that. I will say however, having owned a Blink S, this is much better.
A Comment On Parts
One major thing to note is that Riptide is using off the shelf parts for almost all parts of this board. This means that Riptide is relying on the parts themselves to be tested and proven durable instead of the board as a whole, though I’m sure they’ve done durability tests on the board itself. This also means that you won’t be finding anything new here in terms of performance and hardware. While the deck may change the riding characteristics of the board, if you’re not new to the eboard industry and have tested many boards, this board will feel like the many that have come before. *This is not a bad thing*, and indeed may be a good thing for some. This means the board is predictable, and you’ll be able to find documentation and replacements for nearly all parts found on the board for cheap when your warranty runs out. This also means that many of you might call this board another “China Board” and while you are not wrong, I don’t think you’re entirely right either. Yes, there are many horrible mass production “boards” out there. However, there are some good or even great mass production boards that use some of the same parts. Does that mean that the great boards should be lumped in with the other bad ones that share the same parts? I don’t really think so.
I’m not trying to defend Riptide here. I too would rather see something that’s purpose designed and built with custom parts. That’s just not feasible for a small company, unfortunately, and I don’t blame Riptide for using resources at their disposal. At the end of the day, what they’re playing here is a mix and match game, and I think they’ve hit on a pretty great match.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments. I’ll try my best to answer!